St. Gregory the Great
Saint Gregory the Great was born in Rome in 540 to a well to do family. He was well educated and in his early 30’s became the Prefect of Rome. In 579 he was chosen by the pope as his emissary to the emperor’s court in Constantinople, primarily to seek the emperor’s assistance in protecting Italy from the Lombard tribes that had long ago overrun her. He was elected the bishop of his home city in 590 and was thus obligated to abandon the quiet life of a monk, which he had been living with some friends for a few years in a small monastery near his family home. In numerous letters which have fortunately been preserved, Pope Gregory I, soon after his election, bemoaned the loss of his monastic solitude, peaceful recollection, and life of prayer. But he had only been a monk for a few short years. Gregory’s skills as an administrator, honed in his long years of prior civil and church leadership, proved valuable when he sat on the Chair of Saint Peter. He drew into the orbit of papal authority the bishops of France and Spain who had, until then, been operating somewhat autonomously. He secured the allegiance of Italy’s northern tribes to orthodox Catholicism, compelling them to abandon the counterfeit Arian Christianity they had held for centuries.
Pope Gregory I trekked across Europe and converted Saxon England to Catholicism. He wrote a theological work that was used for centuries by thousands of bishops to help them become more fatherly pastors. Gregorian chant is named after him; he is one of the four Latin Fathers of the Church; he was the first pope to use “Servant of the Servants of God” as a papal title; he alone preserved the memory of Saint Benedict with a biography; he made revisions to the content and structure of the Mass which are part of the liturgy until today, and he was the most impactful pope of the long span of centuries from the 500s to the 1000s.